Rep. Mike Rogers suggests preemptive strike to take out Syria chemical weapons


(CBS News) The Syrian government and rebelstraded accusations Tuesday that each had used chemical weapons in war-torn Aleppo and just hours before President Obama's arrival in the region on Wednesday morning, Israeli Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz, said it was "apparently clear" that chemical weapons were recently used in Syria.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) serves as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and while he made no definitive claim about the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo this week, he said he believes there is a "probability" that the Syrian government "may" use chemical weapons and noted that there is "some forensic evidence that at least small quantities may have been used in the past."

"I think there's a high probability that a chemical agent was used in Aleppo," he said when pushed on the issue on "CBS This Morning," but added he would like to see forensic evidence to substantiate the claims.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, has said they are still assessing the evidence on the alleged attack in Aleppo, and that there is nothing yet to substantiate the claims of a chemical weapon being used. Chemical weapons experts have also cast serious doubts on the claims.

Chemical weapons expert and chief operating officer of SecureBio, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, told on Tuesday that based on video he had seen of victims in Aleppo hospitals, the symptoms were "not really those that are identified with nerve agents or mustard gas, which are the ones most likely to be used" inside Syria.

Rogers, however, pointed to the wider body of circumstantial evidence from the two-year civil war.

"We have a whole history here that's not looking very the past, public reports have shown that they've taken chemical weapons and configured them in a way that they could be used at a moment's notice," Rogers said, addressing his concerns. He added, "I believe they have intent to use it" and that intent "raises a whole new set of questions.

Addressing recent international policy in the region, Rogers outlined his understanding of the sentiment toward the U.S. on the ground in Syria and stressed the need for American credibility in the Mideast.

"The United States has lost the faith of the opposition. They even at one point turned down a meeting with the secretary of state of the United States, they were so fed up. Our allies in the region are getting very nervous about us."

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"If we're ever going to have a diplomatic solution where this regime doesn't get to the point where it uses mass quantities of chemical weapons, we've got to rebuild our credibility," he said. "One way to do that is to remove their capability to use chemical weapons on civilians."

But Rogers denied that removing the capability to use chemical weapons would require deploying U.S. troops to Syria. "We have lots of capabilities in the United States arsenal, where it wouldn't require boots on the ground... we do have the ability to remove their capability of using these particular weapons."

He added that if U.S. intelligence has confirmed evidence of the intended future use of chemical weapons, a failure to act would be catastrophic.

"If we know of their intention to use these chemical weapons and don't do anything about it, that is a stain on our national character."